The 100 author Kass Morgan speaks to Hypable’s Hype Podcast about her latest novel Rebellion, the CW series, her shipping preferences and much more!
Kass Morgan’s The 100 novels tell the story of 100 delinquents who were born in space, and sent back to a seemingly abandoned Earth to determine whether or not it’s inhabitable.
The fourth book in the series, titled Rebellion, was released on December 6! Main characters Clarke, Bellamy, Glass and Wells’ story continues as an unexpected faction attacks their camp and causes unprecedented destruction.
Hypable’s flagship entertainment podcast Hype sat down with Kass Morgan for a lengthy chat about the story’s twists, her thoughts on the TV series, her writing process and much more.
You can listen to the full podcast interview or read the transcript below. Beware of plot spoilers for Rebellion!
Listen to or download the full interview with ‘The 100’ author Kass Morgan:
…Or read what she has to say below:
Hypable: What came first, the book or the show? And what was the process of the two stories being developed almost at the same time?
Kass Morgan: Well, I got in touch with Alloy, a creative think-tank that comes up with really fun, high-concept ideas for books; they were behind Gossip Girl and The Vampire Diaries. They approached me with an idea for a book about 100 kids that are sent from a space station down to re-colonise Earth, and they asked me if that might be something I would be interested in, and I said, ‘Yes, yes it was!’ And they gave me so much freedom to come up with the characters and the world.
Around the time I was finishing the first book, we found out that The CW was interested in turning it into a television show. They had commissioned a pilot, and found a wonderful writer and showrunner, so the book was there first but the show happened really quickly after that, which was really exciting. And we sort of developed them parallel to each other, so there wasn’t a ton of collaboration, which I think is great because it I think allowed us to make choices in a way that works best for each of our mediums.
Were the books and show always meant to be tied together and cross-promoted in the way they’ve become?
Well, we always thought of it as a book series first — most of what Alloy does is books, and then once in a while they can turn them into TV shows and movies — so they’re just looking for imaginative writers who are willing to work collaboratively, which was really appealing to me. I have a full-time job as a book editor, which is amazing, but it doesn’t leave a ton of time for me to be working on stuff on my own, so I really liked the idea of working with a team. This means you never get writers’ block, you never feel like you’re on your own, you have a great team of creative team supporting you and helping you get over any roadblocks that might arise.
Because the books and show are happening simultaneously, you get this fandom that overlaps but not really being the same, and I imagine you’re approached by a lot of show fans, too. So how does that work, how do you sort of build a fandom within a fandom?
I think we’re still figuring it out! Cause the show and books are so different, it’s hard to communicate with everyone in a way that feels useful and respectful. In the books, as you know, Clarke is straight and dating Bellamy, and that’s the canon for the books. And I sometimes talk about that because that’s the reality for my characters, even though it’s so sensitive because of what’s going on in the show.
And I just love that they made Clarke queer, I thought that was a great artistic choice, it was a great political choice, I think it was so important in terms of representation. But I know it’s so sensitive for people who take offense to the idea of her with Bellamy, so I’m sort of caught in this awkward place where sometimes I want to talk about my books and that world, but it rubs people the wrong way. I try to do my best to communicate but it’s a challenge… but on the other hand, it’s so flattering and so humbling and inspiring to see how invested people are in this world. So I try to remember that when I say something and it doesn’t exactly get the reception I wanted it to.
That’s one of the things about this hybrid fandom of the book and show that is so fascinating. Because I think it’s very clear that you can be writing a Bellamy and Clarke love story in the books, but watching the show you can get really invested in the Clarke and Lexa relationship — but still differentiating that from what you’re writing, which is ultimately a very different story and a very different Clarke.
Exactly, yeah. I see them as sort of in parallel universes. So it’s really easy for me to write a romantic scene for Clarke and Bellamy and then turn on my TV later that night and be very invested in, at the time, Clarke and Lexa. So I actually had no problem with it at all.
And let’s go into the discussion for ‘Rebellion’ from there! Because who should find herself with a girlfriend in the third book but Octavia?! I was so happy.
Yeah! So Octavia was actually a point-of-view character in the first draft; the original idea was for there to be five points of view instead of four. And we had always liked the idea of one of the characters not necessarily being straight, but then it was just really hard to fit her storyline in with everyone else, so we ended up cutting her — she stayed as a character, but not a POV-character. So it was really fun to have her romantic storyline get the attention it deserved, and to see that play out.
Was that in any way inspired by Clarke and Lexa? Or was it always meant to be its own thing?
Well, I had always wanted one of the main characters to have a same-sex relationship, so it was always in the back of our minds. But yeah, it was very much inspired by Clarke and Lexa, and seeing how much the fandom wanted to see different forms of representation in the books.
And, statistically, if you have 100 kids on a planet, a good percentage of them are going to be gay, or bi, or asexual, so it absolutely felt like it was time to put that front and center. And there are some other, minor gay characters in the books, but this is the first time one of the main characters has had a same-sex relationship. So it was partly something we’d been talking about for a long time, and partly because we love how the fandom pushed us in that direction, and sort of demanded it. And I loved being able to heed that call.
And again, with Octavia, even if it wasn’t necessarily always planned for her specifically I feel like it makes total sense. There’s also something very poetic about her finally finding someone in this hopeless place, and using that relationship to give herself a bit of motivation to find a way out, because Octavia also obviously takes charge in this book in a major way.
Yeah, it felt really authentic to her character, because she’s always been someone who… She’s so pretty and she knows how to use that to her advantage to control and manipulate the men around her — not in a bad way, just in a strategic way — so it felt really nice for the first person she has real feelings for to be someone a little different, and in this case a girl.
So yeah, it didn’t feel at all like we were doing something that wasn’t true to the character we had written over the first three books. And also, teenagers have lots of different feelings for lots of different people, so especially for someone of that age it felt, to me it felt authentic.
It seems to me that in the books, like in the show, sexuality isn’t something the characters pay attention to. [Representation is] very important in the real world and in fandom, but within the reality of the show and your books, it’s not something that anyone is commenting on or noticing.
Yeah, that was definitely something we were going for. We hope that, in the future, people don’t feel the same sort of anxiety to pigeonhole themselves… Even if you are running from radioactive deer, some things should still be better in the future [laughs].
I’ve always thought of that as the upside to the apocalypse. In a world where society has collapsed, it pushes into harsh focus what is worth trying to police people over and what isn’t. And that means that, in this incarnation of the future, people aren’t going to try to stop you from having feelings for someone of your own gender.
Yeah, and it’s something I think about when people ask me about the difference between dystopia and sci-fi, which have a lot of overlap, but to me, dystopia is about the end of the world and things crumbling, and sci-fi is about what happens after. It’s imagining a more hopeful future and what kind of society we hope we might create in this sort of situation.
I think it can be very beneficial to imagine something completely different, to imagine a reality in which something like a nuclear apocalypse has wiped away some of the things that divide us now, and then we become divided by other things instead. That can reflect back on who we are right now, and what our society is going through. It can be very thought-provoking.
Totally, and I think the show did that particularly well. [In the books], I specifically didn’t want to mention people’s skin color, because I wanted people to be able to imagine it. But in some ways that’s the easy way, out and I think the show did a great job casting so many people of color in the main roles and saying, ‘This is the world we envision.’ I thought that was so cool.
There’s one line in Rebellion about the character of Anna, when they said something about her being really good at science, and I was immediately like… is there a little hint of Raven in there?
Well it certainly wasn’t something I thought about, but who knows? Or it might just be the type of character I feel like is resonating for readers right now. I actually think, though… some fans of the book have a theory that Raven and Finn were based on [book characters] Glass and Luke, who aren’t in the show, but the show flipped them so Raven is the engineer and Finn is her boyfriend. I don’t know if that was on purpose or just a coincidence, but if it is, I thought that was a really cool way to flip things around. I loved that.
I never thought about that, that’s really interesting! And speaking of Glass, she might be my favorite point of view character. She’s got a very special perspective, because all the other characters are so badass and competent, but Glass is — let’s face it — what we’d all really be like in this situation. She doesn’t know what to do, she doesn’t feel like she has anything to contribute, and I loved how she came into her own a little bit in ‘Rebellion.’
That’s exactly what we wanted. We have Clarke and everybody ready to go on this adventure to save the human race, but Glass is what most of us would do in that situation: We would want to do the right thing but we would feel a little lost and wouldn’t know what talents or skills we had. And that was something that was definitely part of the thought-process for Glass from the very beginning. She’s not like Clarke taking charge on Earth, at first all she really wants is to take care of her boyfriend and making sure he’s okay.
At first when I started writing Glass, I had a little trouble getting into her head and connecting to that motivation cause it felt lower-stakes, but the more time I spent with her, the more I really came to admire and appreciate the fact that there are different types of bravery. We’re not all ready to run into battle but that doesn’t mean we’re not willing to do what it takes to protect the people we love. So she’s definitely a quieter sort of heroine, but one I’ve come to really appreciate and have a lot of fun writing.
Is this the end of ‘The 100’? Is there gonna be a book five?
It is definitely the end for now, but that’s what I thought about [the third book] Homecoming, too. It really depends on how it’s received and if there’s an appetite, if people are excited to spend more time in this world with these characters in book form, there could always be another one down the road. But it’s definitely not something we’re talking about yet.
But I do like to end it in a way that sets up the next one. Book 4 ends in what I hope to be a very satisfying way, with a particular scene, but then definitely opens it up to a whole new adventure if that’s the next step.
Absolutely. And we should talk about that, because Bellamy and Clarke take a huge step forward! He asks her to marry him, and this is one of the things shippers will just absolutely love.
I hope so! I got really excited writing it, and imagining what the reaction might be — which is not normally something I do, normally I just write the scene that feels right for the characters and the story. But this one, even though it did feel right for the characters and the story, I definitely had the fans in mind.
But that’s good! If you can be a fan of what you’re writing, that must be a good thing. And in your story, Clarke and Bellamy is obviously the couple, so it’s very satisfying to see them get this happy ending, because they have been through hell, and especially in this book: They have a lot of issues, and they’re still getting to know each other. It’s a very nuanced relationship.
I’m glad, that’s definitely what we tried to do. And especially for characters of this age; any teenager is going to grow and change a ton over the course of a year, and then imagine if you’re going through what these character are going through, they’re gonna grow even faster and change even more, and it’s always interesting to think about how a relationship would be affected by that. And there have been things that have pushed Clarke and Bellamy apart and things that have brought them closer together.
The show and books started from the same place but have branched off in completely separate directions, so if at any point you or the show wanted to introduce a character or story element from the other version of The 100, could that happen, or is that not a thing?
I don’t know… I think there would have to be some discussions, and I’m not exactly sure how that would work. So, yeah, when people are mad that I don’t have Lexa in the books, well, she doesn’t exist in my world and she’s not my character to play with.
But that is important to clarify, because I’m sure a lot of readers like myself are unclear about what exactly the rules are… and also because your books have the TV show characters on the cover.
Yes they do, it’s very confusing! But it looks so cool, who cares. [laughs]
But now that we know Finn is Glass it makes a lot more sense.
I don’t know how much you do or don’t know about The 100 season 4, but I would love to hear your theories.
I know nothing, which is infuriating to the people in my life who think that I’m lying! In terms of theories… I don’t know. What do you think?
It’s tough. The concept of setting an expiration date on the world is such an extremely bold, crazy choice that could go any way. My gut tells me the season will end with them having to lock themselves in a bunker somewhere because they can’t stop it… but what then? Then the Earth is broken and they’re just stuck in there forever?
Then they go back into space!
I hope that doesn’t happen. And I hope they didn’t hear me say that [laughs]. But I do like the idea that there is no solution, so they’ll be fighting against time and ultimately admitting defeat. That seems like a very ‘The 100’ thing to do.
That would be a really bold, creative choice, and sort of a strong statement about what’s going on right now. I think it’s important for people to know that some choices we make can’t be undone. And while we should always fight to make the world the best place it can be, sometimes you have to deal with the consequences of your actions.
Who is your favorite character on the TV show?
I’ll choose a character who isn’t in the books, so I think Raven, she’s been so interesting and her journey has been unexpected and really compelling. I love the adult characters and how they’re all so flawed and make such terrible decisions, but redeem themselves… And I loved Lincoln, he was one of my favorites [sighs]. Ricky Whittle is gonna be amazing on American Gods.
Are you able to separate how you visualize your characters from the actors who play them on the show?
It’s interesting. Eliza Taylor looks exactly like Clarke in my head, and Marie Avgeropoulos also looks exactly like my Octavia. For the others, the casting for the show is superb but they are slightly different, so yeah, I sort of imagine a different book-Bellamy and book-Wells. But it’s been fun, I like having Eliza as Clarke running around in my imagination.
What do you think about Bellamy in the show?
Oh, I love him. I think Bob Morley is an extraordinary actor, and I think the writers have given him such great material. He’s a little darker than book-Bellamy, a little tougher, my book-Bellamy is a little more mischievous and playful. But I love what they’ve done with that character. I’m fascinated, and have a little bit of a crush, which is weird for a character you’ve created, but I think it’s okay, I’m going to accept it and move on!
What’s next for you?
I just wrapped up a new project, a new book that is not set in the world of The 100, it’s completely separate. I can’t say anything about it yet cause there’s gonna be a reveal at some point, but follow me on Twitter @kassmorganbooks and I’ll have fun news about that soon. It’s also YA science fiction.
I will look forward to that! My final question is something we always do on Hype Podcast: How We Hype! What’s catching your attention in fandom right now?
Oooh. I guess it’s a little expected, but I’m so into Game of Thrones. If I had time, I would totally be writing Daenerys and Tyrion fanfiction.
I just love their dynamic, and the fact that they have great banter, and they’re both so ambitious and scheming, so I’m really into that. Yeah, I’m a shipper!
What is your favorite ship of all time?
Hmmmm. I don’t know. The ship that I like reading about was Harry and Draco, I thought that was so interesting. One of my favorite books recently was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, which sort of takes that relationship and imagines it in a different magical setting, so I’m definitely hyping about that! So any Draco/Harry fans should definitely read Carry On.
Thanks to Kass Morgan for this insightful interview! We hope everyone enjoys Rebellion, which is in stores now.